Category Archives: Collectables

Surprise, surprise!

Earlier this week we had a telephone call. For once it wasn’t about “rare coins”, it was about rare baknotes. Proper, rare, banknotes.

White £5 notes are reasonably common, particularly from the 1930s to 1950s. From the 1890s they are quite rare, and the caller had discovered several in a tin when sorting through the effects of a deceased relative. They had left him several white Bank of England fivers and another from the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Banking Company.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

£5 note – Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Bank 1897

Obviously, the tin had rusted a little over the last 122 years, and was too small to fit a banknote in without scrunching it up. Hopefully, with a little work and gentle pressing, they will look a bit better next time you see them. No matter how much work we do on them, we won’t be able to close up the holes, but that’s so often the way – rare notes but poor condition.

It was an interesting end to the day.

Earlier, I’d dropped Julia off at the garden and taken some mint to work. My stomach hasn’t really recovered from the events of last week, but several cups of mint tea seem to have produced a positive result.

 

My co-worker is troubled by the use of the words “mint tea” to describe boiling water poured on mint leaves. I know this because he brought the subject up several times. I actually checked it up. If you look up “tea” the internet tells you it’s a brewed drink using the leaves of Camellia sinensis. Look up “mint tea” and it tells you it’s a drink made from pouring boiling water on mint leaves. You can, of course, also call it a herb tea or a tisane.

Or you can get a life.

The Flying Scotsman

I spent a lot of the day loading a set of Flying Scotsman medallions. They are interesting things – five in silver and one in 9 carat gold. Technically they are three sets, but we’ve put them all together to get them all away at the same time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The six medallions

The pads in the box are actually black but the camera sometimes does strange things. And the boxes are square.

The story of the Flying Scotsman is full of interest, with World Records, grand obsessions and a host of sub-plots. If you follow the link in the first line you will get a good idea of the adventures it has had.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A piece of Flying Scotsman in the middle of a silver medallion – if you read what was replaced in the pre-2016 refit you will appreciate how many spare bits they had.

The gold medal is a very pleasant medal, though it does lack a piece of the original train. A few months ago we had some silver coins with pieces of copper from HMS Victory. It’s not a new idea, somewhere in the house I have a medal cast from the lead of Selby Abbey roof. After the 1906 fire they made the medallions and sold them in aid of the rebuilding. (Readers from the USA may be interested to note the picture of the Washington family coat of arms if they follow this link).

You can also learn a lot about marketing if you study the way these things are sold.

 

It was an interesting afternoon. I was tempted to write more about it on eBay, but I’m paid to sell, not to write. It’s here if you want to read more.

More Medallions, Many More Medallions…

We lost a medallion today. We have boxes of them, so it wasn’t a surprise, as you always feel like you’re on the edge of disaster.

I looked for it twice, handling every plastic-cased medal we had in the shop.

Nothing.

Rather than writing to the customer to confess I’d lost it, I decided that I’d have another look through, and double check every medallion. I found it after twenty minutes. It was in a plastic case with a blue insert. I was looking for a red insert, which is what the computer told me I was looking for.

 

 

In the end the only discrepency I found between the eBay shop and reality, was one medallion. I solved that when I moved a notebook and found the missing medallion had slipped underneath.

It also gave me chance to sort out some new ones. We keep finding more…

 

 

A Different World

Today I entered the world of Shakesperean actors, literary London and Dracula. The item that took me there was a commemorative medal bearing a portrait of Sir Henry Irving – out first theatrical knight. The medal is dated 1891 – he still had four years to go before his knighthood.

He was famous for The Bells, in addition to his Shakesperean roles, and for reputedly being the model for Count Dracula. When you look at some of his pictures you can see why.

These days he is probably as famous for having Bram Stoker as his assistant, as he is for being a great actor. Stoker worked for him for 27 years and in that time they were both to dine at the White House and rub shoulders with the rich and famous.

 

 

The medal, as you can see, has had a hard life and someone has put a hole through it. They used to do that and wear them from ribbons round their necks.

Next, we have a medal to Sir Thomas Lawrence, a fashionable, somewhat raffish painter who died at the age of 60 in 1830. He had been President of the Royal Academy for 10 years at the time of his death. I have plundered Wikipedia for two of his more famous paintings.

 

 

The medallist is the wonderfully named Scipio Clint. I don’t know why he had such a distinctive name, as his father was George and his brother Alfred. He used designs by two well-known sculptors, one being E H Baily, designer of the Nelson statue that stands on the column in Trafalgar Square.

 

Finally we have Sir Isaac Newton, in the form of a medal by John Croker commemorating the death of Newton in 1727.

Newton is an interesting man – a framer of great scientific principles, alchemist, heretic,  reputed inventor of the cat flap and Master of the Mint. In the last job he was responsible for the Great Recoinage of 1696.

During the recoinage he was greatly helped by John Croker, which suggests that the depiction of Newton on the medal is probably accurate, even if it is not flattering.

All three of the medallions have seen better days, but they are all great pieces of history. There is something very calming about working with things of this age, which is more than you can say about decimal coins.

A Few Loose Ends

The Queen Elizabeth medallion I used to illustrate yesterday’s post had sold by the time I got to work.

Elizabeth I Souvenir Medallion

Elizabeth I Souvenir Medallion

This is the magic of eBay.

We had another seven parcels to pack, and, in the morning, a crowd of customers. For the second day in a row we were delayed in our parcel packing by actual people coming into the shop. Though we couldn’t do without eBay customers, it’s always nice to have people to talk to.

In the afternoon the rush subsided and we had time to add a few more medallions to our eBay shop.

The medallion in the Featured Image commemorates Sir Christopher Wren and features part of his memorial inscription around the edge, though the original is in Latin – LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE. I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with Latin – I’d like to be good at it, as it’s always been the sign of an accomplished gentleman, but apart from showing off and reading gravestones I’m not sure how much use it is.

The two bronze medallions have a common obverse and two different reverses for the opening of the new magistrates’ courts in Nottingham and Mansfield.

According to the date on them, they are now 23 years old. I remember when they were made. It was quite a big event at the time – new Nottinghamshire commemorative medallions. It’s strange how time passes.

 

Hard Day at the Shop

Obviously “hard” is a comparative term. Six hours sitting in a heated shop packing parcels and chatting to customers is not hard compared to some of my previous jobs, and they weren’t hard compared to working on a trawler or building skyscrapers.

However, from starting to finishing, there was scarcely a moment when we didn’t have a customer in, often two or three at a time.  We sold quite a lot in the morning, spent over £1,000 buying during the afternoon and ended up selling some more. We did all this with just two people as the boss was off at the York Coin Fair. We often have busy days when he’s away.

Souvenir Medal Castle Rising Norfolk

Souvenir Medal Castle Rising Norfolk

This is one of the medallions we put on eBay. At this sort of magnification you can clearly see  the reflection of my camera and a large quantity of dust. It’s not a stunning level of professionalism is it?

Southwell Minster Souvenir Medallion

Southwell Minster Souvenir Medallion

I see we’ve already sold seven items on eBay, so we will have to get a move on, as the Post Office closes at noon.

Another Day in the Shop

I did quite a lot of things this week, but it was mostly boring or requires too much tedious detail to describe it.

This morning I mounted a few medals, having finally remembered to take some cotton to work, and for the rest of the day, with a few stops to serve customers, I prepared things for eBay.

These are the medals – a British War Medal from the Great War that is being given to another member of the family, a Burma Star group mounted for the family and two Ambulance Service medals mounted for someone who embarrassed his family by using safety pins on Remembrance Day.

These are three styles of Second World War sweethearts of the Royal Army Service Corps. The one below is First World War – you can tell this from the fact it’s Army Service Corps, as they weren’t made “Royal” until 1918. It’s also made in WW1 style, using tortoiseshell, which wasn’t popular in WW2.Finally, as you can see, it’s hallmarked for London 1917. That’s why hallmarked silver brooches are always more sought after, as they can be dated precisely.

The marks are an indistinct maker’s mark, a lion passant for Sterling Silver, a leopard’s head for London and a “b” for 1917.

It’s not a bad job when you can spend all day handling things that are also the basis of your hobby. And I get paid…